The Delhi High Court has observed that a party approaching the Court alleging contempt, cannot call upon the Court, in a contempt jurisdiction, to interpret the judicial order differently from the manner in which it reads and that only those directions which are plainly self-evident have to be taken into account to determine the violation or disobedience.
Justice Jyoti Singh was dealing with a plea alleging contempt of judicial orders passed in a trademark infringement case, thereby seeking direction to hold the respondents guilty of gross, deliberate and continuing contempt of the orders.
In 2006, the High Court had granted an ex parte ad interim injunction restraining the respondents from adopting or using the trademark 'JIVA' or any other identical or deceptively similar or confusing mark, in relation to their goods and services and from manufacturing, advertising and marketing, etc. any goods or services under the said trademark.
In an appeal against the said order, the Division Bench had partly allowed the appeal, whereby the order restraining the respondents from using the trademark 'JIVA' for their Spas run in the hotels established by them, was vacated, subject to certain conditions, while the order to the extent it restrained the respondents from selling, using or offering for sale or use any ayurvedic product under the trademark 'JIVA', was confirmed.
It was argued that in 2014, when it came to the knowledge of the Petitioners that the orders were being violated, a contempt petition was filed, wherein, after hearing the parties extensively, the Court had taken on record the statement and assurance on behalf of the Respondents that they would not use the mark 'JIVA' in relation to disputed goods or for any cosmetic, soaps, ayurvedic, non ayurvedic, or any other allied and cognate goods, except in respect of 'JIVA' for Spa and in relation to pillow, towels, handkerchiefs and other articles related to the Spas.
It was thus the case of the Petitioners that recently, it had come to their notice that Respondent No.6, who was defendant no. 1 in the suit, had been advertising and marketing its non-ayurvedic products such as towels, under the trademark 'JIVA' on the websites of its hotels as well as through e-mails.
It was averred that the Respondent No.6 was providing a written description of variety of Spa services and other therapeutic treatments available, including description of the ayurvedic products used therein, thereby indirectly advertising the products, against which there was a restraint order, leading to a deceptive association of its ayurvedic and non-ayurvedic products to the trademark 'JIVA'.
Such advertisements, according to the petitioners were in clear violation of the order dated 17.10.2006 read with order dated 30.05.2008 and the assurance given by Respondent No.6 to the Court on 04.04.2016.
The Court was of the view that from a holistic reading of the aforesaid orders, it was evident that the Division Bench had vacated the earlier 2006 order to the extent it restrained the respondents from using the trademark 'JIVA' for their Spas run in their hotels, subject to certain conditions.
"Clearly, there was no restraint on any advertisement or marketing with respect to running of the Spas, the services and facilities offered therein or articles such as pillows, towels, handkerchiefs, etc. related to the Spas, under the trademark 'JIVA'. Restraint order by the learned Single Judge, on offering for sale/use of the ayurvedic products under the trademark 'JIVA', as confirmed by the Division Bench in para 46(b) of the order, cannot be extended to running of the Spas and the articles used therein, which is evident from a plain and conjoint reading of paras 46(a) and 46(b) of the order dated 30.05.2008," the Court observed.
The Court observed that a perusal of the documents, on which the Petitioners had predicated their allegations of contempt, reflected that Respondents had only advertised facilities and services rendered in their Spas along with pictures of the articles used in relation thereto.
"Pictorial presentations indicate that Respondents have only given descriptions of the various therapies, Spa treatments etc. available at their Spas along with the benefits that flow out of the said treatments. Albeit the pictures in the e-mails and on the websites showcase certain products, however, the mark 'JIVA' is only reflected on the towels. The bottles alleged to be the infringing products do not contain any label or description so as to even remotely indicate or suggest that any ayurvedic or non-ayurvedic products under the trademark 'JIVA' are being advertised or marketed, in violation of the orders of the Court, as alleged by the Petitioners," the Court said.
It noted that each of the articles depicted in the pictures were those which were related to the Spas, particularly, the towels, and fall within the window of permitted user, by virtue of the order of the Division Bench and statement given to the Court on behalf of Respondent No.6.
The Court therefore observed that the power vested in the High Court to punish for contempt is a very special and drastic power and needs to be exercised with great care and caution. It reiterated that while exercising the contempt jurisdiction, Court cannot travel beyond the four corners of the orders, alleged to be violated or read into the order what is not explicitly directed or restrained.
"A Petitioner approaching the Court alleging contempt, cannot call upon the Court, in a contempt jurisdiction, to interpret the order differently from the manner in which it reads and only those directions which are plainly self-evident have to be taken into account to determine the violation or disobedience," the Court said.
It added "It bears repetition to state that this Court is unable to read any explicit or even implied direction/restraint in any of the orders, referred to and relied upon by the Petitioners which restrained the Respondents from marketing, advertising the articles used in relation to their Spas."
Accordingly, the plea was dismissed.
The Indian Hotel Company Ltd. was represented by Mr. Mukul Rohatgi and Mr. Sandeep Sethi, Senior Advocates who were briefed by a team from Karanjawala and Co. comprising of Ms. Meghna Mishra, Partner, Mr. Arjit Benjamin, Senior Associate and Ms. Aishwariya Chaturvedi, Associate. Jiva Institute of Vedic Science & Culture was represented by Singh & Singh, comprising of Mr. Sudeep Chaterjee, Partner along with Mr. Tejveer Bhatia, Partner.
Case Title: JIVA INSTITUTE OF VEDIC SCIENCE & CULTURE AND ANR v. PUNEET CHHATWAL & ORS
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 514